Thursday, June 26, 2008

Beijing's Big Bowl Tea

Danwei has translated the story of Big Bowl Tea that appeared in Beijing in 1977. Just like the first private restaurant story carried in this Blog earlier, the Big Bowl Tea was among the first private entrepreneur adventures in the earlier days of Deng Xiaoping's reform. They had gone through similar obstacles and hardships before they tasted success.

In fact, the owner of the first private restaurant mentioned the Big Bowl Tea when she recalled a visit by officials from national government, who had also visited the Big Bowl Tea folks.

The original Chinese version is here.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Chinese Are Coming!

Danwei has an English summary of an a Beijing News article about the first batch of Chinese scholars being sent to US for study in 1978. During that year, Deng Xiaoping, the new leader of China, had made two dramatic changes in China's education policy, which had been devastated during the Cultural Revolution. One was to reinstall the national college entrance exam and the other was to send scholars to the US for study.

Deng Xiaoping was quoted in the article as saying "It should be tens of thousands, not eight or ten... No matter how much money it takes, it is worth it." and "Let's send them out first. Don't worry about whether they will run away. Even if 20% of them run away, we will still have 80%." These were brave words for a country that had virtually no foreign exchange to spend at the time. It showed remarkable courage and determination of openning the doors of China on Deng Xiaoping's part.

It was a couple of years later when the physicist Tsung-Dao Lee alerted Deng Xiaoping that China did not really have to spend government money sending students abroad. They could utilize the existing scholarships in American universities to do so. The floodgate of Chinese students truely opened after that.

For the record, almost all the earliest batches of scholars had returned to China after concluding their studies in the US. Besides their sense of patriotism, they had also faced the practical problems of being relatively old in age and lacking means to stay in the US legally. Most of the younger students who followed, however, had chosen to stay in the US. After the 1989 massacre, more than 50,000 Chinese students and their family members took advantage of the Chinese Students Protection Act to permanently remain in the US.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

NYT Archive 1989: Death Toll Reassessed

More than two weeks after the massacre, New York Times on June 21, 1989, reassessed the death toll of the crackdown:
The true number of deaths will probably never be known, and it is possible that thousands of people were killed without leaving evidence behind. But based on the evidence that is now available, it seems plausible that about a dozen soldiers and policemen were killed, along with 400 to 800 civilians.
Some of the early estimates of thousands of deaths, including the American estimate, were based on reports that the Chinese Red Cross had counted 2,600 deaths. But the Chinese Red Cross has denied saying any such thing, and this seems to have been an offshoot of two other rumors that variously used the figure of 2,600 to describe the number of students who were missing and the number of students who were killed.
The death toll estimation was based on numbers compiled from hospitals nearest Tiananmen Square, detailed in the article itself.

In the same issue, NYT reported the arrest of Liu Gang:
The television announced that Mr. Liu was arrested in the city of Baoding, 90 miles southwest of Beijing, where he was hiding in a park while awaiting a train to a more distant city.
''Local policemen found him, and were suspicious, so they took him to the police station,'' the television announcer said. ''Liu Gang was in shabby clothes and used the assumed name of Zhang Shun. He said he was a laborer, but the policemen saw that he had no thick callouses on his hands and that he had pale skin and that he didn't have the air of a laborer. So the police questioned him further, and he confessed.''
Like most of the other students who have been arrested, Mr. Liu appeared calm and composed during his interrogation. There were no obvious signs that he had been beaten, as many of the workers seem to have been by the time they are shown on television.
Several days earlier, NYT had also reported that Ma Shaofang had turned himself in.

Hu Yaobang at the Beginning of the Reform Era

It was thirty years ago, in 1978, when Deng Xiaoping launched his great reform in the aftermath of Chairman Mao Zedong's death and the end of Cultural Revolution. A series of significant events during that year opened the curtain of that era, which are being commemorated this year. One of them was the publication of a philosophical essay, Practice is the Sole Criterion for Testing the Truth (时间是检验真理的唯一标准). The essay, published under the name of an unknown author, opened the debate that "truth" may not be whatever Chairman Mao had previously said.

In China, an article like that would not have come out on it own. Thirty years later, Hu Deping, Hu Yaobang's eldest son, tells the story of how his father had spearheaded the preparation and the publication of that essay. A much abbrevated English translation can be read here. It is the first of three installment, to be continued.

Thanks to China Digital Times for the link.

Monday, June 16, 2008

NYT Archive 1989: Death Sentences in Shanghai

The only death sentences in the ensuing crackdown of the 1989 movement came, surprisingly, from Shanghai, where the situation was considerably milder than that in the capital. It came quickly too. On June 16, 2008, New York Times reported three workers sentenced to death there:

In the first trial of Chinese pro-democracy demonstrators since the military crackdown 11 days ago, the Government today sentenced three young men to death for their role in a violent protest in Shanghai.
... ...
The three workers who were sentenced to death today were charged in an incident that began on June 6 when demonstrators held a sit-in on a railway line to block traffic as a protest against the military crackdown in the capital two days earlier. A train rammed the demonstrators, killing six of them, and the protesters then attacked and set fire to the train.
No one was killed in the fire, but some firefighters were beaten, and the burning of nine rail cars forced the closing of the railroad line for two days. It was not clear exactly what role each of the three men was said to have played in the incident, or what evidence there was for their involvement.
... ...
The three workers are Xu Guoming, an employee of a Shanghai brewery; Bian Hanwu, who is unemployed, and Yan Xuerong, a worker at a radio factory. They appeared to be in their 20's or perhaps early 30's, and none were known as leaders of the anti-Government protests in Shanghai.
NYT also reported that a string of students were arrested, including Xiong Wei, who turned himself in. Xiong Wei was relatively unknown before, during, and even after the movement. It was not clear how and why he landed in the "21 Most Wanted List".

Sunday, June 15, 2008

NYT Archive 1989: 21 Most Wanted

The 21 Most Wanted student leaders were announced by the Chinese government and reported by New York Times on June 14, 1989:

The 21 students whose mug shots and biographical details were shown on television included the two most prominent leaders of the democracy movement, Wang Dan and Wuer Kaixi. Others shown on television were Chai Ling, the leader of the students occupying Tiananmen Square, and her husband, Feng Congde, and a 28-year-old graduate student, Liu Gang, who is said to have assisted the students from behind the scenes.
The television showed lengthy film clips of Mr. Wuer, apparently so that viewers could identify him and turn him in. The clips also showed the extent of Government surveillance of the student leaders; it seemed that three different video cameras were used to record one visit by Mr. Wuer on May 29 to a restaurant in a Beijing hotel. One camera was trained on him from above while he ate, another showed him leaving the restaurant, and a third caught him as he left the building.
From NYT's description above, it is clear that Liu Gang's significance in the movement was not understood by outsiders. Even most students were surprised seeing his name in the no. 3 slot, behind Wang Dan and Wuer Kaixi but ahead of Chai Ling.

The list: Wang Dan, Wuer Kaixi, Liu Gang, Chai Ling, Zhou Fengsuo, Zhai Weiming (翟伟民), Liang Jindun (梁擎墩), Wang Zhengyun (王正云), Zheng Xuguang (郑旭光), Ma Shaofang (马少方), Yang Tao, Wang Zhixin (王志新), Feng Congde, Wang Chaohua, Wang Youcai (王有才), Zhang Zhiqing (张志清), Zhang Boli (张伯笠), Li Lu (李禄), Zhang Ming (张铭), Xiong Wei (熊炜), and Xiong Yan.

As Liu Gang would later comment, almost all of the 21 had been, one way or another, involved with the Beijing Students Autonomous Federation he had founded.

NYT Archive 1989: Two Student Leaders Arrested

Zhou Fengsuo and Xiong Yan, two students who had been involved in the movement from the very early stage, were arrested, as reported by New York Times on June 15, 1989:
The television news announced tonight that 2 of the 21 student leaders who had been placed on a wanted list on Tuesday had been captured. It said that Zhou Fengsuo, a 22-year-old physics student in Beijing, had been turned in by his sister and her husband. The television program showed the couple being interviewed by the police.
The other student leader who was reported arrested was Xiong Yan, a 24-year-old graduate law student in Beijing. The circumstances of Mr. Xiong's arrest were not reported.
Partly because he was turned in by his own sister, Zhou Fengsuo was never formally tried or sentenced. He was released after a year in prison. He is currently living in California.

Xiong Yan spent nineteen months in detention and then fled to US in 1992. He then chose a unique path for his life: joining the US Army. He has served as a chaplain in Irag.

NYT Archive 1989: Zhao Ziyang's Crime

On June 14, 1989, New York Times reported what the government had laid on Zhao Ziyang, according to an internal document:
Mr. Zhao was last seen on May 19, talking with student leaders on Tiananmen Square, and there has been almost no official mention of him since then. He is believed to have been stripped of his powers and he may be under house arrest, but it is not clear whether he retains his title.
The documents that criticize Mr. Zhao and are now circulating among high officials make three specific complaints. First, they assert that he helped organize the student mourning of the former party leader Hu Yaobang, whose death on April 15 was the catalyst for the movement. Second, they say that his words and actions encouraged the student movement. Third, they accuse him of violating party discipline, by making unauthorized statements about the party leadership.
The last item is probably a reference to his disclosure on national television, during his meeting on May 16 with Mikhail S. Gorbachev, the Soviet President, that there was a formal policy of consulting Mr. Deng on all important matters.
Any reports about "internal documents" or insider information should automatically be taken with a big chunk of salt, as such reports are notoriously unreliable.

It is strange how Zhao Ziyang could be accused for helping organize student mourning of Hu Yaobang. Not only that there has not been any evidence supporting it, it is also unpractical for him to do so.

It is also curious that his biggest "crime" was not on the list: that he had "split the party" by refusing to go along with the martial law.

Friday, June 13, 2008

NYT Archive 1989: Fang Lizhi's Status

As the Chinese and American governments continued to haggle on Fang Lizhi, New York Times on June 13, 1989, reported how Fang Lizhi got into the American embassy:
Western diplomats said the controversy over the couple began on June 4, hours after the military crackdown in Beijing. A friend of the couple telephoned the embassy, saying that Mr. Fang and Miss Li felt that their lives were in danger and that the couple wanted to take refuge in the American diplomatic compound.
Initially, an American diplomat told the couple to go to a Beijing hotel while the embassy contacted the State Department for instructions. The embassy hesitated because it is against standing rules for an American embassy to grant refuge to a foreign national on the national's own territory.
On June 5, the matter was brought to Secretary Baker at the regular morning staff meeting, during which the major topic at hand was the violence in Beijing. The diplomats said Secretary Baker's position was that the United States should ''not deny refuge or sanctuary'' if the couple was ''in personal danger.''
Since the embassy had concluded that the couple were indeed in such danger, they were granted sanctuary within the American compound, the diplomats said. The couple had no trouble entering the embassy, and no Chinese authorities were in ''hot pursuit'' when they arrived, the diplomats said.
At no time did the couple ask for political asylum, in the sense of seeking to flee to the United States and acquire American citizenship, Administration officials said. Rather, Mr. Fang asked for physical protection, and it was on that basis that he was allowed into the embassy under the diplomatic principle of ''temporary refuge.''
Administration officials said Mr. Fang was very sensitive about the question of asylum and has reiterated to his embassy hosts that he considers himself a Chinese patriot who wants, if at all possible, to remain in his country.
Meanwhile, several Zhao Ziyang's allies made public appearances, saving their jobs:
The television showed a series of senior officials making public appearances to praise the crackdown and visit wounded soldiers. Among those shown was Qiao Shi, a member of the standing committee of the Politburo who is mentioned as candidate to be the next party leader.
The most surprising appearance was by Tian Jiyun, a Politburo member who is closely associated with the Communist Party General Secretary, Zhao Ziyang. Mr. Zhao has been stripped of his powers, and perhaps of his formal position, and at least one associate on the Politburo, Hu Qili, has also disappeared and has presumably been purged. A picture of Mr. Tian had previously been published in a newspaper, indicating that his career might be saved, but his television appearance was the clearest sign so far that members of Mr. Zhao's faction will not automatically lose their posts.
In his televised remarks, Mr. Tian did not mention the ''counterrevolutionary rebellion,'' but simply visited wounded soldiers and thanked them for doing their duty while carrying out martial law.
Two other senior Communist Party officials who have been associated with the moderate point of view also made brief appearances on television. They were Yan Mingfu, an official in the party headquarters who argued for conciliation with the students, and Wen Jiabao, director of the General Office of the Central Committee. Both were shown visiting wounded soldiers, and neither said anything in front of the cameras.
Yan Mingfu, who had played a pivotal role in trying to have a real dialogue with student leaders, did not actually save his job. He held a couple of unremarkable posts and generally faded out of national politics.

Wen Jiabao, however, fared much better. He is currently the Premier of the country.

Meanwhile, NYT realized that the eyewitness account it had published a day earlier was not entirely factual.

Media Coverage of the Tiananmen Anniversary

Andrew at One Man's Revolution compiled a list of media coverage of the 19th anniversary of Tiananmen Massacre, based on LexisNexis News Search. He found nothing in the major TV news network in the US and only scant mentions in the printed media.

This has been a very eventful year for China so far. The Tibet riot and Olympic torch relay had received tremendous media coverage, only to be surpassed by the devastating earthquake in Sichuan. The Olympics is just around the corner. There should be more attention towards China in the coming months.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

NYT Archive 1989: A Famous "Rumor-Monger"

On June 12, 1989, New York Times reported the case of a famous "rumor-monger", as the government cracked down on any expressions of the massacre:
An extraordinary series of broadcasts over several nights on national television illustrates the tone of the propaganda effort. For two nights, both the early and late evening news programs broadcast segments of a street interview done by ABC News in Beijing shortly after the army's assaults. A man is shown being interviewed, his voice rising with anger and his arms imitating the motion of a machine gun, as he describes a scene of terrible carnage committed, he says, by the army.
''Tanks and armored personnel carriers rolled over students, squashing them into jam, and the soldiers shot at them and hit them with clubs,'' the man was shown telling an American interviewer. ''When students fainted, the troops killed them. After they died, the troops fired one more bullet into them. They also used bayonets. They were too cruel. I never saw such things before.''
A caption on the bottom of the screen during the interview identifies the man as ''somebody spreading rumors about the cleanup of Tiananmen Square.'' After the man speaks, the news announcer warns the public to beware of believing such rumors, then says that the man is wanted by the police and he appeals to the public to turn him in.
Tonight, the national news showed the same man, looking haggard and terrified, in police custody, retracting in front of the cameras what he had said to ABC News. The news announcer says that the man, whose name he gives as Xiao Bin, identifying him as an unemployed 42-year-old factory worker, was turned in one hour after the appeal to the public by two shop assistants who recognized him from his picture. They said they caught him in the act of telling someone that 20,000 people had been killed in the military crackdown.
''I never saw anything,'' Mr. Xiao says of the Beijing crackdown. He goes on, his head bowed, ''I apologize for bringing great harm to the party and the country.'' He also admitted that he was a counterrevolutionary. [ ABC News, in a statement issued in New York on Sunday, said, ''We are deeply distressed to learn that in this instance the Chinese authorities intercepted unedited news material that was being satellited, and used it for political purposes.'' ] Television broadcasts such as this one are being shown all across China, generally twice each night on news programs that have expanded from a half-hour to 90 minutes.
For his act, Xiao Bin (肖斌) was sentenced to 10 years in prison. The length of the term was outrageously surprising, as it was longer than that received by any of the captured student leaders.

The same day's edition of NYT also carried an eyewitness account of the massacre by an anonymous student from Tsinghua University. While most of the story seemed plausible, it's dramatic description of students dying in waves to overturn an armed personnel carrier did not agree with what we know today.

Meanwhile, 17-year-old Michael Chang won the French Open on this day in 1989. He became the youngest player ever to win a grand slam and the first American to win French Open since 1955. He was also the first ethnic Chinese to achieve stardom in tennis. After his victory, he said "God bless everybody, especially the people in China."

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

NYT Archive 1989: Massive Arrests in Beijing

On June 11, 1989, New York Times reported that the Chinese government had announced that 400 people had been arrested for participating in the democracy movement. The only one named was student leader Guo Haifeng:
The television news program said that student leaders had been arrested, although it named only one student from Beijing University. The news tonight reported the apprehension of Guo Haifeng, a member of the standing committee of the recently formed independent student union.
''He was arrested just as he and a group of rioters were about to burn an armored personnel carrier,'' the announcer said, without indicating on which day the arrest took place. Nor did he say what kind of punishment the students would receive, and called upon other student leaders to turn themselves in.
''Those leaders who have not been arrested should go to the public security organization and surrender themselves so that they may be dealt with leniently,'' the state television broadcast said. ''Those who refuse to surrender themselves will be arrested and dealt with seriously.''
Guo Haifeng was one of the three students who had staged a kneeling-down petition at Hu Yaobang's funeral. In the early morning of June 4, he was in a bus with several people making Motolov bombs when the bus driver was shot dead and all of them captured by soldiers. He was initially charged for attempting to burn an armed personnel carrier and even destroy Tiananmen itself. But these were eventually dropped for lack of evidence. He was later sentenced for four years on lesser charges.

Presumably, the vast majority of the unnamed arrestees were "rioters and hooligans", who had bravely resisted the advance of the martial law troops. They received much more severe punishments than the students.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

NYT Archive 1989: Scapegoating Fang LIzhi

On June 10, 1989, New York Tims reported that Deng Xiaoping finally appeared in public after three weeks absence, squashing rumors that he had been dead. Without remorse, Deng Xiaoping spoke at length to justify the bloody crackdown.

The news of the day was that the official television news had named Fang Lizhi as the villain of the movement:
The target of the broadcast, Fang Lizhi, a leading astrophysicist who is China's best-known dissident, had perhaps been overlooked because he does not own a gun and for weeks has carefully avoided the student encampment on Tiananmen Square, where troops killed hundreds, or possibly thousands, of civilians early this week.
Nevertheless, the television news accused Mr. Fang, who is now in the United States Embassy for his own protection, of being a traitor who incited the ''rebellion'' and provoked the violence.
The sharp attack underscored not only the passions that Mr. Fang, who is 53 years old, arouses on both sides of the Pacific, but also the difficulties that the United States and China will have in resolving the latest irritant to their relations.
Fang Lizhi (pronounced fahng lee-JER), his wife, Li Shuxian, and their son, Fang Ke, took refuge in the embassy because they feared arrest after the shooting of pro-democracy demonstrators in the center of the city on Sunday and Monday.
In fact, Fang Lizhi and his wife played very little role throughout the entire movement, which he might have helped inspiring earlier in the year. Fang Lizhi chose to stay out partly because he had disagreed with some of the students' aggressive tactics and partly because he did not want to bring trouble to the students with his reputation as a dissident. The students, on the other hand, largely stayed away from him for the same reason. They wanted their movement to stay "pure".

The scapegoating of Fang Lizhi did not last long, however. With Fang Lizhi out of reach in the American embassy and the capture of Chen Ziming and Wang Juntao later that year, Chen Ziming and Wang Juntao became accused for being the "black hands of Beijing".

Monday, June 9, 2008

CCTV Realizes Its "Error"

The link on the CCTV's website, on which CCTV had reported Hong Kong's candlelight vigil for Tiananmen victims, is no longer working. Internet reports say that an internal investigation of the incident is underway.

NYT Archive 1989: Li Peng Reappers

Five days after the bloody massacre, Premier Li Peng became the first leader to appear in public. He reclaimed leadership role by praising the troops on TV. On June 9, 1989, New York Times was still speculating the fates of Deng Xiaoping and ZhaoZiyang. Beijing was still a city in turmoil. Military convoys patrolled the city. Soldiers fired their guns sporadically.

In Shanghai, on the other hand, a kinder and gentler approach appeared to be working.

NYT Archive 1989: Turmoil Continues

On June 8, 1989, New York Times continued its extended coverage of "Turmoil in China". Most articles focused on diplomatic reactions of other countries and the desperate ways of foreigners trying to get out of China. Beijing was still described as at a brink of civil war.

People in Shanghai continued to protest the massacre by setting barricades in the city and staging sit-ins on railroad tracks to block rail traffic. In a chaotic situation, a train plowed into people on tracks, killing six and injuring six. The train was set ablaze by the anger mob.

In the capital, 200,000 troops were reported in and around the city. Dissident Fang Lizhi and his family had taken up refuge in the American embassy, causing a diplomatic standoff.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

NYT Archive 1989: Government's Death Toll Estimation

Three days after the massacre, Beijing was still like a war-time city. On June 7, 1989, New York Times changed their overall theme of China coverage to "Turmoil in China". In the lead story, the government spokesperson Yuan Mu was quoted commenting the government's estimate on the death toll:
Mr. Yuan, whose appearance suggested that Mr. Li is still in power, also estimated today that 300 people had been killed and 6,000 wounded in the military crackdown in the capital. Most independent estimates are higher, ranging from several hundred to 1,500 or more, and the accepted wisdom among many Chinese is that tens of thousands of civilians were shot or beaten to death since troops attacked Tiananmen Square, in the heart of Beijing, early Sunday morning.
The official estimates were also regarded as suspect because Mr. Yuan said that most of the injuries were suffered by troops, rather than by the civilians whom the soldiers raked with submachine-gun fire.
Yuan Mu's 300 also included both soldiers and civilians. "He said that only 23 students were known to have died." Artillery and gun shots could still be heard in the city, disrupting attempts to return to normal life. There were wild speculations that Qiao Shi, a lesser known official, might emerge as the next leader.

In the rest of the country, Shanghai stood at a standstill. Widespread unrest were reported all over the country. Foreigners were scrambling to leave, with emergency airlifts provided by their governments.

Diplomatically, Japan suspended economic development and cultural missions to Beijing but ruled out whole-sale sanctions. Britain reaffirmed that it will handover Hong Kong to China on schedule in 1997. The Soviets took the side of Chinese government and condemned Western pressure.

CCTV Reports Hong Kong Vigil For Tiananmen

Each year at the anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre, thousands of people in Hong Kong stage a candlelight vigil commemorating the death. The annual ritual survived the Chinese take-over of Hong Kong in 1997, although the number of participants is dwindling as time passes.

This year's version was held in the evening of June 4th and somewhere between 15,700 (police estimate) and 48,000 (organizer estimate) turned out.

What must be a surprising twist for everyone is that the event made it to CCTV, the official television station. Of course, anything related to the Massacre is still taboo in mainland China. But CCTV reported this commemoration in Hong Kong as 40,000 Hong Kong residences holding candlelight vigil commemorating victims of earthquake.

The donations collected during the Hong Kong vigil was indeed allocated to earthquake victims this year.

Friday, June 6, 2008

NYT Archive 1989: Man Against Tank

The scene of one young man against a column of tanks, which had become the symbol of the Tiananmen Massacre, was vividly described in New York Tims on June 6, 1989:
It all started with a man in a white shirt who walked into the street and raised his right hand no higher than a New Yorker hailing a taxi.
Unlike so many of the pictures from China in the last few weeks, images crowded from one edge of the frame to the other, with determined demonstrators and ambivalent soldiers, this one was powerful in its simplicity: A single man stopping a column of tanks rumbling toward Tiananmen Square.
The man stood only half as tall as the lead tank. But his body language made it clear: He wanted the slow-moving column halted, and halt it did, the huge treads on the lead tank grinding to a stop just a few feet from his face.
It was a close call - the tank came perhaps a second or two of killing him - and it seemed to encapsulate many of the confrontations in recent days between the citizens and the army: the touch-and-go maneuvering, with soldiers not sure when to press on and when to retreat; the determination of the demonstrators, brave and unyielding in ways that might have been unthinkable a few weeks ago. In its quiet way, this little confrontation seemed to symbolize the fragility of the Government's position.
For a long time afterwards, rumors had this young man identified as someone by the name of Wang Weilin (王维林). There are, however, not any evidence to back that up. The identity of the man will most likely never be revealed.

In college campuses, students were setting up memorials for their falling classmates. Even in the aftermath of the massacre, there were still demonstrations in the campus area, which had not been immediately bothered by martial law troops.

There were no immediate reports on the fates of student leaders.

Much attention was however focused on the behavior of the army in the city, amid speculations that conflicts were developing between different units with possibilities of a civil war. Most of these analysis were based on information that were since proven to be false.

In the United States, President George H. W. Bush ordered a suspension of military sales to China, but is reluctant to impose any other economic sanctions. Groups with plan to visit China were canceling their trips.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

NYT Archive 1989: The Day After

One day after the bloody crackdown, New York Times on June 5, 1989, put the death toll as "at least 300":
Army units tightened their hold on the center of the Chinese capital on Sunday, moving in large convoys on some of the main thoroughfares and firing indiscriminately at crowds as outraged citizens continued to attack and burn army vehicles.
It was clear that at least 300 people had been killed since the troops first opened fire shortly after midnight on Sunday morning but the toll may be much higher. Word-of-mouth estimates countinued to soar, some reaching far into the thousands. Outbreaks of firing continued today, as more convoys of troops moved through the city.
The bloodshed stunned Beijing and seemed to traumatize its citizens. Normal life halted as armored personnel carriers and troop trucks rumbled along debris-filled roads, with soldiers firing their automatic weapons in every direction. Smoke filled the sky as workers and students vented frustration and outrage by burning army vehicles wherever they found them separated from major convoys,in side streets or at intersections.

The area around central Tiananmen Square was completely sealed by troops who periodically responded with bursts of automatic-weapons fire whenever crowds drew close to the square

The killing, in fact, continued on this morning after as the "bursts of automatic-weapons fire" were aimed at protesting crowds.

The clearing of the Square itself was quite accurately reported by NYT, in two short paragraphs:
When troops finally seized Tiananmen Square early Sunday morning, they allowed the student occupiers who held on to the center of the square for three weeks to leave and then sent tanks to run over the tents and makeshift encampment that demonstrators had set up. Unconfirmed reports rapidly spread that some students had remained in the tents and were crushed to death.
The troops sealed off Tiananmen Square and started a huge bonfire. Many Beijing residents drew the conclusion, again impossible to verify, that the soldiers cremated corpses to destroy the evidence.
To this day, there has been no evidence that anyone died in the tents, although at least two casualties were confirmed happening within the Tiananmen Square itself.

In the aftermath, various estimates of the death toll spread:

The student organization that coordinated the long protests continued to function and announced today that 2,600 students were believed to have been killed. Several doctors said that, based on their discussions with ambulance drivers and colleagues who had been on Tiananmen Square, they estimated that at least 2,000 had died. But some of these estimates, based principally on antipathy for the Government, appeared to be high.
In a separate reports, Sheryl WuDunn described the scene in area hospitals and Nicholas Kristof compared this massacre to a similar one in Kwangju, South Korea.

As the West condemned the crackdown, the US Administration was reluctantly weighing its options. Chinese students in the US, on the other hand, demonstrated and demanded sanctions to their own country. In Hong Kong, as its citizens protested, the stock market plunged.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Death Toll: Tracking The Fallen

For almost two decades, the Tiananmen Mothers have been collecting and documenting the victims of the Tiananmen massacre, despite of constant government surveillance and harassment. Their efforts have resulted to a list of 189 deaths of confirmed deaths. In this list, 71 were students, ranging from elementary school to graduate school ones.

They were also able to identify the exact locations for 134 deaths. At the 19th anniversary of the tragedy, they published detailed maps showing where they had fallen (the map is annotated in Chinese):

Map of the Fallen Victims

An accompanying map shows the hospitals where the dead were collected:

Map of Hospitals

The first map clearly indicated that the worst fighting happened along the Chang'an Avenue to the west of the Square, where the Beijing residents had put up the most stingiest resistance and where the troops showed the worst violence. Entering the city from the west, the troops killed 2 people in the outskirt, 4 in front of the Military Museum, 36 at the Muxudi intersection, 10 before Fuxinmen, and 5 at Fuxinmen intersection. Continuing inside downtown, they killed 6 near the Peoples Hotel, 10 at Xidan, and 9 at Liubukou. Most of the 9 at Liubukou, however, were killed after the troops had encircled Tiananmen Square and students had withdrawn. In a nightmarish maneuver, an armed personnel carrier charged into crowed and mauled over many on bikes and foot.

In all, more than 80 people perished along the west Chang'an Avenue. In contrast, there were only 6 confirmed deaths in and around the Square itself.

The list of 189 confirmed by Tiananmen Mothers is certainly an incomplete one. It also did not include deaths within the military troop. But among the various numbers that had been reported in the media, it might be the one closer to reality.

NYT Archive 1989: Crackdown

As troops opened fire in Beijing nineteen years ago, New York Times' series reports changed from "Upheaval in China" to "Crackdown in China". But on that day, not much reporting actually made it before the deadline. No death toll was given. There was not yet a comprehensive coverage of the crackdown itself, saving a "reporter's notebook" by Nicholas Kristof:
The violence against students and workers in Tiananmen Square was most obvious today, because for the most part they were the ones getting killed. But they, too, were violent against the police and army troops, although less effectively so.
Clutching iron bars and bricks, the students glared at soldiers 100 yards away on the other side of the square. It was dark, although the fire from an armed personnel carrier that students had set ablaze cast an eerie glow over part of the square, and the troops and their rows of vehicles could be dimly discerned in the haze.
From time to time, a group of them would advance on the soldiers to throw rocks and otherwise harass them. And then often, they would be shot and killed. It was an unequal competition.
Whenever the students got their chance, spotting an unarmed group of soldiers, they attacked with bricks and iron bars. However, the soldiers, most of whom had guns, tended to stick together.
Until now, students had emphasized the need for nonviolent tactics, and today some still begged their friends to put down their bricks and iron bars. But many students seemed to have crossed their personal Rubicon today, and those who previously had clutched leaflets and megaphones today picked up firebombs.
President George H. W. Bush and other American officials immediately condemned the crackdown. 300 people sieged on the Chinese Consulate at New York. More reactions were seen in Hong Kong and Taiwan. In Taiwan particularly, on the day their President acknowledged Communist control of China, the events and tragedy at Tiananmen were actually bringing people across the strait together.

As the brief history of this movement was outlined, NYT also published an extensive report on the reasons behind it. The lengthy piece was obviously written before the crackdown and being published for the Sunday edition.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Pu Zhiqiang Not Allowed To Visit Tiananmen

Nineteen years ago, when Pu Zhiqiang (浦志强) left Tiananmen Square with his fellow students under the gunshots of the advancing martial law troops, he vowed to return to the Square every year on this day to commensurate the dead. He persisted to fulfill his oath every year, even when he had to do under police escort.

He was not able to do the same thing this year. You can read what happened here.

NYT Archive 1989: Military On The Move

On the eve of the massacre, New York Times on June 3, 1989, found time to publish a profile of the student leader Wang Dan, describing him as "an intellectual lacking charisma or oratorical skill". But it also anointed him as the most influential leader, over the more charismatic Wuer Kaixi and Chai Ling:
''I have one regret,'' Mr. Wang said. ''I failed to persuade the elite intellectuals to give us direct support.'' Intellectuals should have been more involved in helping to lead the movement, he says.
Mr. Wang believes that the intellectuals joined too late, and he suggests that one of the results of this is that the students did not have coherent goals.
''I think that the student movements in the future should be firmly based on something solid, such as the democratization of campus life or the realization of civil rights according to the Constitution,'' Mr. Wang said. ''Otherwise, the result is chaos.''

Indeed, Wang Dan had been spending most of his time with intellectuals during the entire movement that his fellow leaders and students did not really know where he was most of the time.

In the streets of the capital, this day was marked by small-scale troop movements and confrontations with city residents:
Tens of thousands of Beijing students and workers surged onto the streets early this morning to turn back more than 2,000 troops who were marching toward Tiananmen Square.
It was the biggest outpouring of citizen support for the demonstrating students in more than a week, and it seemed possible that it would rekindle the student movement and present a new challenge to the Government.
The confrontation underscored the fragile and volatile nature of the situation in Beijing just when the turmoil here seemed to be subsiding after seven weeks of demonstrations by students and workers for democracy and against corruption.

Tear gas was used at Xinhuamen, where residents sieged on a convoy of trucks carrying weapons. The atmosphere in the city became extremely tense.

Monday, June 2, 2008

NYT Archive 1989: Tyson vs. Foreman

At the brink of a bloody crackdown, the Chinese government offered $25 million for a boxing match between Mike Tyson and George Foreman, reported New York Times on June 2, 1989.

But the preparation for the crackdown did continue as well. Foreign reporters were being barred from writing any articles about the democracy movement. Meanwhile, a bizarre kidnapping attempt were reported at the Square:
The most peculiar incident was the assertion by students occupying Tiananmen Square that four people tried to kidnap two student leaders from their tent at 3 A.M. today.
According to the students' account, Chai Ling, the general commander of the Tiananmen Square students, and her husband, Feng Cengde, the deputy general commander, were awaken by four people who tried to gag them with towels and carry them away.
Mr. Feng escaped and shouted for help, and other students seized and interrogated the four people. Three of them were also students, and one was a member of a Beijing citizen organization that has supported the demonstrators, but most students were convinced that the four were Government agents.

The kidnappers were actually led by Wang Wen, who was among the group who had decided to go on hunger strike in early May. Wang Wen had repeated sought for leadership positions and was never successful. He staged the kidnapping as a coup, attempting to overthrow Chai Ling on corruption charges.

Meanwhile, the possibility of a military coup in the government lingered on.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

A Novel On Tiananmen

Beijing Coma: A Novel was written in Chinese by the self-exiled author Ma Jian. It was translated into English and published recently. In the last week or so, it has been receiving quite some publicity with reviews on Los Angles Times, NPR, Washington Post, Times, etc.

NYT Archive 1989: A Dangerous Game of Cat And Mouse

As the crackdown started, New York Times reported on June 1, 1989, that protesters and the government were playing a dangerous game with the arrests:
About 2,000 students and workers protested in front of the Public Security Ministry tonight, and three union leaders were released after two days of interrogation.
The release suggested that the Government may be apprehensive about the reaction if it arrests leaders of the democracy movement. The three, who are leaders of a newly formed labor union in the capital, were detained Monday night.
It was principally concern over their fate that prompted demonstrations Tuesday and again Wednesday in front of the Public Security Ministry, tying up traffic on the Avenue of Eternal Peace, a major street.
As word spread among today's demonstrators that the three had been freed, they changed the purpose of the protest to demand the release of 11 other workers whom the Government acknowledged on Tuesday that it had arrested. All 11 own motorcycles and had been part of a band of several hundred motorcyclists who joined student demonstrators over the last 10 days.
In those quiet days before the storm, Nicholas Kristof also attempted to look into Deng Xiaoping's mind.